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The best Premier League opening day games

With a brand new Premier League season on the horizon this weekend we take a trip down memory lane with some of the best games from the opening weekend of seasons gone by.

10. Sheffield United 2-1 Manchester United - 1992/93.

The second weekend of August 1992 saw a new dawn for English football as the Premier League saw its first-ever fixtures played. The fixture between Sheffield United and Manchester United, probably the one fixture that many refer to when they think about the opening day of the Premier League.

The game is famous as it is the fixture where the first ever Premier League goal was scored, the man who claimed this honour was Blades forward Brian Deane, after he nodded home past the eventual champions that season, Manchester United after just five minutes on the clock. Deane went on to add another to his tally from the penalty spot, to give Sheffield United a two-goal cushion.

Mark Hughes pulled a goal back for the Red Devils, but to no avail as Manchester United could not stage a comeback and Sheffield United put their first three points on the board. Manchester United did not let this defeat hold them back in the season as they ended their league title drought of 26 years by claiming the first-ever Premier League crown that season.

9. Wolves 2-2 Everton - 2018/19.

Wolves’ 6-year wait to play a top-flight fixture was brought to an end as they hosted Everton at Molineux. Nuno Espirito Santo’s men had romped the Championship title the season before and earnt a first-day showdown with one of the ever-presents of the Premier League.

A game for many debuts, as Marco Silva took charge of his first Everton league match, and forward Richarlison made his debut after a 50 million acquisition from Watford. Most of the Wolves team were making their Premier League debuts also including summer signings Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota and Joao Moutinho.

The opening goal came for Everton debutant Richarlison as he tapped home from a free kick, then a huge turning point as the Toffees skipper was sent off for a high tackle on Diogo Jota. From the resulting free-kick Ruben Neves showed the big league his prowess from long-range situations as he fired a free kick past Jordan Pickford to send Molineux crazy.

Richarlison claimed his second of the game after a neat finish past Rui Patricio, to put the ten-men Toffees back in front however a late header from Raul Jimenez on his debut saw Wolves and Everton claim a point each on an enthralling opening game of the season.

8. Arsenal 0-2 West Ham – 2015/16

This Sunday afternoon fixture on the opening weekend of the 15/16 season saw notable debuts for West Ham midfielder Dimitri Payet and Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech. While also being the first game of the Slaven Bilic tenure at West Ham.

A game most notable for the impressive display from 16-year-old West Ham youngster Reece Oxford, who in the following week would receive his GCSE Results made the Emirates and the Premier League look easy by keeping the Arsenal midfield very quiet.

Dimitri Payet proved to be having a great debut which foreshadowed the season he would have by providing an assist for the first goal as he whipped a free kick in for Cheikhou Kouyate to head into an empty net with Petr Cech misreading the cross. A nightmare debut for the Arsenal goalkeeper as a tame Mauro Zarate strike also found its way past the new goalkeeper to send Hammers fans delirious.

This ended a 9 straight defeat streak for the Hammers who went on to have a memorable season last season at the Boleyn Ground, as they qualified for Europe and Arsenal would lose out on the league to Leicester City, finishing runners up.

7. Chelsea 4-0 Sunderland - 1999/00

The 99/00 season began with an emphatic win for Chelsea, beating the Mackems 4-0 at the Bridge. Chelsea made early ground as Gus Poyet and Gianfranco Zola put the Blues two goals ahead before the break.

They then put Sunderland to the sword with two goals in a minute when Tore Andre Flo headed home, but then the goal this game is most memorable for as Zola looped a delicious pass into the path of Gus Poyet whose scissor kick volley fired past Sorensen to give an early goal of the season contender.

A goal which if you haven’t seen I would recommend, one of the great Premier League goals.

Chelsea ran out 4-0 winners under Gianluca Vialli and both went on to have good seasons as Chelsea finished fifth (which was good for them at the time), and Sunderland earned a seventh-place finish.

6. Manchester City 4-0 Swansea City – 2011/12

The first Monday Night Football of the 2011/12 season saw a debut for a certain Sergio Aguero, as Man City took on newly promoted Swansea City. A game largely remembered for the debut of Aguero as he gave a memorable introduction to the Premier League.

The game was decided in the second half as the first goal was just before the hour mark with Edin Dzeko scoring for City.

Then Aguero came alive as he claimed the first of his 260 City goals as he tapped in a Micah Richards cross to double the lead. Then a piece of genius by the Argentine as he managed to lob the goalkeeper, and just as the ball looked to be going out, he hooked it back for David Silva to tap in from a couple of yards. Aguero rounded off the scoring with a 25-yard screamer into the bottom left corner.

This game proved to be the catalyst for Roberto Mancini’s men, as they ended their 44-year-old league title drought in an incredible title race which you will probably remember Aguero sealing the title against QPR in the last minute.

5. Liverpool 4-3 Leeds United - 2020/21

Leeds ended their seventeen-year wait to play a Premier League match after their promotion in 2020. Liverpool began the season as defending Champions for the first time in 30 years. They opened their campaigns in entertaining fashion. This was the first matchday of the strange covid season and the only thing missing from the game was the fans.

Salah scored an early penalty after just four minutes as normal service seemed to be renewed, Leeds responded with a lovely individual goal from Jack Harrison and showed their worth to the league.

Van Dijk restored the Reds’ lead with a header from a corner which crept just over the line. Then a Van Dijk mistake let Bamford in who finished well past Ederson to make it 2-2 after half an hour. Mo Salah then grabbed his second after a lovely turn and a ferocious half-volley leaving Meslier no chance as they headed into the break ahead.

Mateusz Klich added his name to the scoresheet in the second half with a lovely finish, as Leeds fought back again. As the game looked to be heading for a draw Liverpool were awarded a late penalty, which Salah scored and grabbed his hat trick to secure a 4-3 win.

Leeds did show what they were all about under Bielsa and earned themselves a top-half finish that season; Liverpool had an indifferent season but still ended up securing 3rd place.

4. Manchester City 3-2 Southampton - 2012/13

Manchester City began the 2012/13 season as defending Champions for the first time since the 1968-69 season, with a visit from Nigel Adkins’ newly promoted Southampton. A game which proved to again be a cracker on the opening day, just over two months after the end-of-season drama against QPR, the Etihad saw another emotionally draining afternoon.

Just like the QPR game an Argentinian opened the scoring, not Zabaleta this time but Carlos Tevez opened the scoring for Man City after forty minutes, after a tight first half. The Saints responded very well as striker Rickie Lamber scored a fantastic half-volley finish to equalise. Improbably Southampton took the lead after Steven Davis’ scored with a low drive. Saints asserting themselves in the big league.

Edin Dzeko equalised for City just a few minutes later, and then with 10 mins to go Samir Nasri smashed home an equaliser to get City’s title defence off to a great start.

They did however lose out on the title that season with Manchester United United claiming back their crown, Southampton would avoid relegation that season and appoint Mauricio Pochettino as their manager.

3. Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool - 2016/17

The Premier League fixture list drew up a great game to get the 2016/17 season underway as two heavyweights Arsenal and Liverpool went head-to-head. This game saw a debut for a certain Sadio Mane and Klopp was also starting his first full season at the club. Arsenal were about to head into a difficult season which saw an even more difficult start.

Arsenal missed a penalty, but just moments later Theo Walcott who missed the original spot kick, slotted home to give the Gunners a great start. Phillipe Coutinho added to his impressive goal catalogue with a great free kick right on stoppage time at the end of the first half.

Adam Lallana gave Liverpool the lead with a very neat finish as Cech narrowed down the angle. Coutinho then added another as Clyne drove down the wing and Coutinho slotted his cross home. Mane then marked his debut with an incredible solo goal, driving down the right and then cutting in and firing into the top corner with Liverpool taking Arsenal to the cleaners.

Future Liverpool player Alex Oxlade-Chambarlain scored a lovely individual goal himself to pull a goal back for Arsenal. Rob Holding got a rare goal for himself to make the last 15 minutes but it wasn’t enough for them to grab anything from the game. This started a season in which both went for the Champions League spot with the fight going to the final day. Liverpool won the battle, and Arsenal ended a nightmare season with no top 4 for the first time under Arsene Wenger.

2. Manchester United 5-1 Leeds United - 2021/22

August 2021 saw the return of full-capacity crowds following the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Premier League pulled out an old rivalry for the opening weekend as Manchester United hosted Leeds United at Old Trafford.

Bruno Fernandes got the first goal as his shot trickled over the line, the only goal of the first half. The second half seemed to be where the floodgates opened for Leeds but that wasn’t before they got an equaliser when Luke Ayling found the top corner from 25 yards.

They didn’t last long as Manchester United added another four including two more for Bruno Fernandes to get his hat trick and Fred also got on the scoresheet.

An absolute thrashing for Leeds which epitomized their season as they survived on the last day of the season, Manchester United’s season was full of unrest as they finished outside of the top 4 again.

1. Arsenal 4-3 Leicester - 2017/18

The first edition of the modern Friday night curtain raisers came in the 2017/18 season, and it was a cracker at the Emirates between Arsenal and Leicester, title rivals in 2016. Arsenal debutant Alexandre Lacazette opened his account after just two minutes when he headed home Hector Bellerin’s cross.

Leicester did respond well as just three minutes later Shinji Okazaki headed home.

Then the game was turned on its head when Jamie Vardy tapped home Marc Albrighton’s cross home. Arsenal did equalise on half-time with Danny Welbeck tapping into an empty net to end a frantic first half.

The entertainment did not stop there as Leicester regained their lead after Jamie Vardy headed home from a corner. As the clock turned over 80 minutes Arsenal stepped up the pressure and Aaron Ramsey fired in an equaliser. Then just two minutes later Olivier Giroud headed in off the bar to give the game one last twist and Arsenal the lead. Giroud proved to be the match-winner as Arsenal held on.

Both teams went on to have disappointing seasons, as both fell way below their standards but gave us a curtain-raiser to remember.

With the 2023/24 finally upon us, will we get any more classics to open the best league in the world?

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